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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Asia is Working Hard to Keep Omicron at Bay

Even while the variation rages in other parts of the world, most of Asia has managed to keep omicron at away, but the area that houses the majority of the world’s population is ready for what may be an inevitable rise.

Strict immigration quarantine restrictions and widespread mask use have slowed the spread of the extremely dangerous strain in Asia. After lifting immigration and quarantine restrictions in the autumn, countries including Japan, South Korea, and Thailand have rapidly reintroduced them in recent weeks.

However, the number of cases is growing, and specialists believe the next several months will be crucial. Doubts regarding the efficiency of Chinese-made vaccinations used in China and most of the developing world have heightened such anxieties.

“Once the tempo kicks up, the increase would be exceedingly rapid,” said Dr. Shigeru Omi, Japan’s top medical consultant.

Omicron is now again causing concern in India, which is recovering from a disastrous COVID-19 epidemic earlier this year. More than 700 cases have been detected in the country of over 1.4 billion people.

Many other states have imposed further restrictions, like as curfews and vaccination requirements at stores and restaurants, and the capital, New Delhi, has outlawed big gatherings for Christmas and New Year’s.

Many individuals were shopping sans masks this week in New Delhi’s busy Chandni Chowk bazaar. Mahesh Kumar, a cycle rickshaw driver, said he is terrified of passengers who do not wear masks.

“There are a lot of folks who don’t think this condition exists. They don’t believe it exists. But I’m terrified. “I have a family and children,” he explained. “Who will look after them if something happens to me?”

Multiple COVID-19 outbreaks have already occurred in Australia, with a state leader declaring on Wednesday that “omicron is advancing too swiftly.” Thailand has more than 700 instances, South Korea has more than 500, and Japan has more than 300. At least eight have been detected in China, which has some of the strongest virus regulations in the world.

Only four cases have been reported in the Philippines, where people rushed to shopping malls and Masses in anticipation of Christmas. The Philippines is Asia’s largest Roman Catholic country. Some hospitals have already started demolishing COVID-19 wards, which experts believe is premature.

Japan slowed the spread of the new strain for roughly a month by reimposing entrance restrictions, requiring mandatory COVID-19 testing for all arrivals, and isolating all passengers on a flight if someone tests positive for omicron.

However, the barrier was overcome last week when the first locally transmitted cases were verified in Osaka and Kyoto, two nearby cities. Experts are encouraging the government to increase testing, speed up booster doses, and prepare additional hospital beds in anticipation of an impending surge of illnesses.

“We’d like to think the omicron instances are minor,” Omi added, “but the fast-paced illnesses might swiftly double the number of patients and overwhelm hospitals.”

Taiwan has begun to provide booster injections of the Moderna vaccine, pushing individuals to receive a third shot before the expected surge of people coming home for Lunar New Year at the end of January.

According to preliminary study, booster doses of the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Moderna vaccines provide ongoing, albeit reduced, protection against omicron.

According to a university news release, a Hong Kong University study that has yet to be published indicated that China’s widely used Sinovac vaccination did not develop enough antibodies to defend against omicron, even with a booster dose. Both Sinovac and Pfizer vaccinations are available in Hong Kong.

A request for comment from Sinovac was not returned. Officials in China claim that their immunizations are still effective.

“Our inactivated vaccinations are still fairly reliable and cover a wide spectrum of antigens,” says the researcher. As a result, they won’t be fully useless against omicron,” stated Zhong Nanshan, a senior government physician, during a public discussion.

Some nations that formerly relied on Chinese immunizations are now seeking boosters from other sources.

Thailand, which has mostly relied on Sinovac and Sinopharm, a Chinese vaccine, is now giving AstraZeneca or Pfizer booster doses. Indonesia is introducing a Moderna booster for health care personnel, where Sinovac has been the basis of a program to vaccinate the country’s 270 million citizens. In January, the government plans to administer booster vaccines to the broader public, though it has not specified which vaccine.

China’s approach to the virus, omicron or not, is to halt it in its tracks, and the government looks to be toughening up as the Beijing Winter Olympics approach in February.

Last week, officials shut down the city of Xi’an, which has a population of 13 million people, because to a delta epidemic that has infected hundreds of people. They instructed everyone to stay at home until another round of testing was conducted around the city on Monday.

Residents took to social media to express their dissatisfaction with the unexpected prohibition. Many people relied on instant noodles and other convenience foods. Some people were concerned about getting enough food in the following days, particularly fresh vegetables.

China places visitors from other countries under quarantine for a number of weeks, depending on the province, with three weeks being the most typical.

A key issue is how China’s zero-COVID-19 policy will play out at the Olympics. Athletes and visitors will not be permitted to leave the Olympic zones, and anyone in attendance, including officials, media, and site workers, will be subjected to daily testing.

To stem a dangerous delta-driven increase in South Korea, the government reinstated its strictest distancing laws last month, limiting private meetings to four people and imposing a 9 p.m. curfew on eateries.

It’s only a matter of time, according to health experts, until omicron appears.

“It’s too evident that Omicron will become the prevalent form in South Korea at some time,” said Jaehun Jung, a professor at Gachon University College of Medicine in South Korea.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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